I start the day with a quick trip to the Fader Fort Presented by Converse. It’s just nearing brunch time, so no lines, no crowds. Once inside, the corporate messages surround me, but in a way that makes me check it out instead of turn me off. I make my way over to the stage, and settle to the front to check out the first band of the day, the 1975
First noticing their Brooklyn/British style (asymmetrical haircuts, low cut tank tops and skinny jeans) and their youth, I already had an idea of what to expect from this Manchester, UK act, touted as one of NME’s ten bands “not to miss” at this year’s SXSW. Once they kicked in, I was a bit surprised that I wasnt blown in the face with cheesy pop punk. Instead, their vibe was quite chill, a very welcome sound for the first show of the day, refreshing actually, just like the complimentary Bushmill’s lemonade cocktail I was drinking. Although there was definitely a pop element, it paired quite well with the singer Matt Healy’s voice.
A quick hello to some friends at the Fort (photo above) and I’m off to the West Side. I plan to make my way to the Brooklyn Vegan spot, a place a spent a lot of time last year. This year is a bit different, however. It’s housed on Red River in the old Emo’s, a venue I heard some stories about from my Texas friends (seeing Motörhead and Pedro the Lion shows there, to name a few). The venue itself, for those who’ve never been when it was Emo’s, is cool, half outdoor, half in. Two stages. Very Austin.
Justin Bieber's new glam pop look, familiar?
Walking in, the first thing I heard was 80′s-sounding glam pop from the main stage. The band, or rather the fast-rising, one-man Canadian superstar, John O’Regan, aka Diamond Rings, was topped off with a black and white mod ensemble (studded leather jacket included) and strutting dance moves. You couldn’t help but smile and enjoy him for having such a good time up there. No wonder, as Gawker has said, Justin “the Bieb” Bieber has reportedly copped this fellow Canadian’s look. It’s a keeper.
So far, the day was bright and cheery. That soon changed when I headed over to the indoor back stage, called the Jr. stage. I waited while the band Royal Thunder
set up and I had a feeling I was in for something good. I was right. This happened to be my favorite kind of music, metal/noise rock with a heavy dose of progressive instrumental pieces (the bassist/vocalist Mlny Parsonz claimed her voice was hoarse).
To me, the instrumental parts were the highlight, where the guitarist was allowed to trail off into a long riff, mess with his petal board, and alter back and forth between heavy rhythm and wailing solos. This Atlanta act was probably my favorite show of the day, something you want to close your eyes and rock back and forth to.
Hoping to check out as many day-show venues as possible, I head over near the highway to the Filter Magazine parties at Bar 96. Right across the street from each other, the venues are partnered with Dr. Martens and Dickies. I walk into the Dr. Martens party, take a spin around and notice the first band up. They go by the blunt name of NO. Theyre a six-piece in matching short sleeve button ups, well-kept haircuts and Ray Ban sunglasses. They sound like musicians that would wear that too, pop rock-ish. Nothing that makes me stay, so, being that there’s much more to see and hear, I head off.
I’m soon back to Brooklyn Vegan’s digs hoping to catch the Thermals and Pallbearer, but the line and the sun deterred me. It’s not worth standing in a non-moving line in the scorching heat for most events, and it’s a theme I find taking over my desire to see anything else on the West Side at this point.
I return to the Fader Fort, for it’s an oasis, with the breeze, the booze and the Brooklyn vibe that calms me down in the shade after a slightly frustrating and highly sweaty walk back to the East Side.
Ra Ra Riot
Here I catch Ra Ra Riot, whose tropical shirts and neon accessories suit their sound well. It’s a clap-along, fun set, with violin. I only stick around for a few songs and I’m off for a minute break.
Home base is Yellow Jacket Social Club on the East Side. The kind of place that I would frequent if I was a local, and the spot where all my Austin friends spent the whole day. There’s a show going on there too today, a heavy metal line up supported by a South Austin tattoo shop, Rock of Ages. This calls for a crowd of local bikers, skaters, musicians, tattoo artists, etc. So everyone tends to be a little “dirtier” than in other spots, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only person wearing a wristband.
Black Tusk: they're in there
I happen to catch Black Tusk from Savannah. They’ve been described as sludgy and ferocious, and yeah, I’d say that’s pretty dead on. The kind of metal you’re kind of afraid of. I just watched from afar and got into it.
Party Girl at the end of the day
After some much need rest and relaxation hanging at Yellow Jacket, it’s time to get out of the direct madness. I headed north on the drag to Spider House, a coffee bar/music venue (everything jn Austin is part music venue). We came to check out a friend’s band, Party Girl, a band that sounds just like their name, female vocalist rockabilly that’s heavy on the party pop. After a day of pure SXSW festival activities, it felt good to get out and do something local. And with lyrics like “Feels good, real good” and “parties on Saturday night,” Party Girl gave me a boost with a huge B-52′s vibe. From head banging to head bopping, Friday was pretty all across the board at SXSW.